Scene: Dilettante | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo by Jake Thompson

Dilettante are the brain-child of northern multi-instrumentalist, Paul Hamlyn award-winning composer, professional roller skater and longtime BC Camplight member Francesca Pidgeon. 

The band recently announced that they are set to release her new album Life of the Party on 11th October via Launchpad + / EMI North, as well as dropping a brand new single, Fun.

The single is about not having a very good time when you’re supposed to be and is a rhythmic, harmony-rich, alt-pop ditty that really showcases Francesca’s Kate Bush-esque vocal qualities.

Here, Francesca tells us all about her skating community…

Alongside being a professional musician I am also (somewhat ill-advisedly) a roller skater; in the video for my latest single ‘Fun’ I finally got to mash the two loves of my life together, in a manic lament to not having fun when you should be. I’ve been a roller derby player most of my adult life and I wrote this song when a bunch of stuff was going on that ruined the one thing that has always been pretty much an uncomplicated and constant love in my adult life; skating.

I want to shout out some of the communities and people that have been slowly bringing back the joy of skating for me. But first, a short glossary of the kinds of skating I’ll be talking about:

  • Park Skating – happens in a skatepark, there’s a lot of public spaces for this but you can also pay into indoor/undercover spaces. Involves learning tricks on lots of different obstacles including (but not limited to) ramps, rails, ledges, boxes and stairs. Sometimes happens in the streets. I skate quads (effectively like a tiny skateboard on the bottom of each shoe) but at the skatepark there are a lot of inliners too (3 to 5 wheels just in a line).
  • Roller Derby – is a full-contact sport on quad skates where there are 5 people at a time from each team on an elliptical track, usually in a sports hall that doesn’t hold their floor in very high esteem. One of those people wears a star on their helmet and they are called a ‘jammer’ – the aim is for that person to pass the 4 opposing ‘blockers’ as many times as possible while the ‘blockers’ try to ‘block’ them (who’dve thunk??)
  • Roller Disco – we’ve all probably done this as kids right? We put music on and skate around having a little boogie.
  • Jam Skating – serious moves, looks super cool. Not something I know loads about tbh but it’s a real vibe when people get into it, crazy footwork and they don’t have toe stops in their skates which is insane to me.
  • Artistic Skating – like ice skating, but on wheels!

Projekts Skatepark
When the pandemic hit one of the first things I thought was ‘oh my god, what am I going to do if I can’t hit people on skates??’. In order to stave off the existential dread that always hits me if I’m not doing exercise I ended up heading to the skatepark to engage in a totally different kind of skating, one that was much more self-directed and obsessive (who’d think that that would be something I’d be into…). In April 2021 I applied (somewhat apprehensively) to become a coach at Projekts Skatepark. I’d done a bit of coaching at roller derby and I was very into the idea of getting free sessions at the skatepark. This is the only time I have ever gotten a job off the back of an interview so big ups Projekts for believing in this little introvert. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be a very good coach but it turns out that because I was not a great skater when I started I’m actually pretty good at coaching because I have usually had to take every possible approach to manage any given trick. I’ve been coaching almost every Monday for the past 3 years and we’ve got a super cute community going on at this point. Everyone is incredibly supportive, even when they are absolutely sick at skating, there’s very little in the way of big egos and we usually all go out and have a slice of pizza after the session. It’s a super nice crowd and I’ve never felt anything but incredibly welcomed into and encouraged by that community. It’s awesome. (Also big ups New Wave who run queer skate sessions for all disciplines once a month here that I coach at as well, as well as all over the North!)

Skating Queer Roller Disco
This is a great little roller disco that runs out of Ardwick Sports Hall every other Saturday courtesy of fellow Projekts coach Grant Langton (AKA @grantonwheels). Roller disco isn’t really my kind of skating honestly but even I have a great time at Skating Queer. It’s a super friendly vibe even for total beginners, Grant and the other stewards are always so willing to share their knowledge of skating. Inlines and quads are both allowed which is actually pretty rare in skate spaces, but us wheely-footed folk gotta stick together. It is strictly sober and a very safe space for everybody (Grant will kick you out if you’re being a dick). Last January I helped curate a Kate Bush theme night playlist for one evening that we called ‘Skate Bush’ (have a listen here). And you can also catch Grant doing the longest spin of all time in the video at around 03:10!

Chaos Engine Roller Derby
Chaos Engine is a mixed gender derby team that I tentatively joined about a year ago when I felt very let down by derby in general. From the start I can’t tell you how wholesome it has been being a part of this team. Roller Derby generally is a women-led sport, which is what drew me to it in the first place but it’s also a very diverse and generally welcoming place for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Chaos is a mixed gender team which means absolutely anyone is welcome to join, which means that by and large there are more people playing who are AMA (assigned male at birth). I love roller derby but I’d been worn down by questionable team politics and straight up bad decisions regarding serious incidents in my last team and joining Chaos was something that really brought back my derby joy. There is so much to say about how wonderful this team is but I always think one things sums it up really well; where most teams at the end of session go take our kit off at the sides of whatever sports hall we’ve managed to finagle for training sessions and sit in our own little cliqués, in Chaos everyone brings their bags into the middle of the track and chats excitedly about what was good that evening, what everyone’s doing in the week and anything else that springs to mind. We make a real effort to tell each other what we’ve done well that evening. Then we all gather around the middle and do a big team chant and it makes my heart swell.

You can see me getting hit by members of my own team (as well as people who travelled from derby teams that were further afield to take a shot at me) at around 01:46 in the video.

Sugar and Spin Skate Crew
I met Libby of Sugar and Spin after she came to a session at Projekts and we bonded straight away talking about how roller derby can on occasion become a very toxic place when the wrong people are in charge. Libby now spends more time on jam and artistic skating and has been really involved in the skate community in both Manchester and back in Glasgow. I had been talking to a few people about making this roller skate music video when we met and Libby mentioned that she’d been wanting to get more into choreographing for roller skates and it just felt like kismet! She was really dedicated and involved and helped us run a tight ship on the day and you can see her pulling some shapes on my right in the choreographed end sections (around 03:19).

All My Skate Pals
This is just a general shout out to all the skaters who came down to make the ‘Fun’ music video happen – that was the final nail in the coffin of my worrying that roller skating wasn’t something In wanted to do anymore. I was so, so touched that people gave up their time, travelling from as far as North Wales to be a part of this, they were such a lovely bunch so thank you a million to all those guys, you really played a pivotal role in getting me out of my skate funk. It was great to have so many skaters from so many skate communities coming in for this one. Thank you so so much to: 

Grant Langton, Emily Tonge, Caoilfhionn Warne, Emily Brocklehurst, Lou Clarke, Maddy Cooper, Elise Longden, Sonja McKinnon, Lucy Pinnington, Caitlin Chalk, JJ Curtis, Gem Clack, Gem Donnelly, Libby Odai, Martin Garside, Jake Shaw and Dannii Leach.

And thank you all for jumping so wholeheartedly into shoving cake in my face, it’s almost like you’d all been waiting a long time to do just that. In short, even though any community can have a few bad eggs, by and large, these are the best people around and it turns out that having 8 wheels on my feet still is really the only thing that makes me feel alive.


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